The Challenges of Schizoid Personality Disorder and Relationships: How Treatment Can Help
One of the biggest challenges of living with schizoid personality disorder is establishing relationships with other people. This condition makes it difficult, and even undesirable, to have close or emotional ties, even with immediate family. Treatment can help change some of these attitudes by shifting negative thinking, guiding the learning of new social skills, and promoting the development of a few trusting and close relationships. Residential treatment is especially useful, because it offers a community of support, something an individual with this condition truly needs in order to learn to relate to and interact with other people.
Schizoid personality disorder (SPD) is characterized by limited close relationships and perceived emotional coldness. Individuals with this condition feel better being alone and when interacting with other people only in non-personal ways. And yet, studies show that people with SPD are lonely. Treatment can help them learn how to have closer, more satisfying relationships for a better overall quality of life.
As with all personality disorders, this mental illness is characterized by abnormal and often inaccurate thought patterns that lead to significant dysfunction and impairment. These disorders make relationships with other people challenging. And, to make living with a personality disorder even more difficult, those who are diagnosed with one struggle to see that there is anything wrong or abnormal about their thoughts, behaviors, or perceptions of the world and others around them.
Schizoid personality disorder is particularly difficult in terms of relationships. Some of the characteristic symptoms of SPD are:
- Not wanting or getting any pleasure from personal relationships, including with immediate family
- Choosing to be alone most of the time rather than being with people
- Having little or no desire for a sexual relationship
- Getting little pleasure out of activities
- Having few close friends
- Being unreactive to criticism or praise from others
- Emotional coldness
To be diagnosed with SPD you must have at least four of the above symptoms. You must also have a general lack of interest in social relationships and poor emotional expression in relationships. These things are a pattern and persist throughout your life if you have this personality disorder.
Schizoid Personality Disorder and Relationships
The symptoms and signs of SPD make it fairly clear that establishing any, let alone maintaining, close relationships is the biggest area of impairment for someone with this condition. If you have SPD you may be good at certain activities, be smart, and succeed in school or at work, but you likely have very few friends. Even your relationships with your parents and siblings are likely to be limited and lack emotional closeness.
You may feel like getting too close to people just seems wrong or unnecessary. And you can’t understand why people get upset about your lack of connection or keep pushing you to be closer. You may simply enjoy your time more when alone or when discussing something impersonal with other people.
If it is someone you care about who’s struggling with SPD, trying to establish a close relationship is frustrating. It can also be hurtful, but it is important not to take it personally. Someone who has SPD cannot help being this way and isn’t trying to hurt you. It is important to push for treatment to help this person develop more satisfying relationships but also to adjust your own expectations of what being close to them will mean.
The Importance of Treatment
Treatment is difficult for someone with SPD. Most people with this condition are content to go through life not engaging too closely with people and staying away from any kind of mental health treatment. It is often at the urging of loved ones that they agree to get treatment.
Although many people with SPD seem to be fine the way they are, and on a surface level function normally, it is important to realize that treatment can be effective at improving relationships and quality of life. The right treatment, for a long enough period of time, can help you if you struggle with SPD. It can guide you through the process of accepting your relationship limitations and making improvements in interacting with and getting pleasure from a few important family members or friends.
Behavioral Therapies for Social Skills
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, and related therapies are proven strategies for helping people with a variety of mental illnesses. For someone with SPD, CBT can help change stubborn thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors that limit social interactions and relationships. It is a type of therapy that helps you identify inaccurate and negative thoughts in order to make positive behavioral changes.
In CBT, you can expect to be asked to talk about what your issues and challenges are; to learn to be more aware of the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs related to these difficulties; to identify those thoughts and beliefs that are inaccurate or unhelpful; and to reshape them into something more positive and productive. You may be asked to set goals, practice skills, and learn how to interact with other people.
A major benefit of one-on-one therapy of any type for someone with SPD is that it provides an opportunity to establish a trusting relationship with another person. This takes time, but if you are able to work with the same therapist for an extended period of time, you will get there. For this reason, residential treatment, where you have access to the same staff for a few months or longer, is a great choice for treating SPD.
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Social Support in a Therapeutic Community
Although the idea of living in a residential treatment center with other people is off-putting to many people with SPD, this kind of treatment can be highly beneficial. A treatment facility that has a philosophy of establishing a therapeutic community is especially useful. Here you will be expected to participate as a resident and member of a community rather than to simply receive treatment as a patient.
This concept is difficult if you have SPD, and the right treatment center will ease you into it. But ultimately it is helpful to be part of this kind of treatment group. It will allow you to practice new social skills, develop closer relationships, work on therapy in group settings, and become a more confident, capable, and social person.
Involving Family in Treatment
Because it is so difficult to love and care for someone with schizoid personality disorder, often the few people who will still be around to be supportive are family. If you are headed to treatment for SPD, having your family involved can be a big help. You may not feel as if you have close relationships with them, but they are important for your recovery.
If you are the family of someone with SPD, get involved in care. Your support and persistence are likely responsible for getting this person as far as agreeing to treatment. Many residential treatment programs not only allow family to get involved but encourage it. Especially when developing better relationships is the focus of treatment, it helps to have family participate and learn alongside the patient.
Family members as part of treatment may participate in their own therapy or psychoeducation sessions to learn more about SPD and how to relate to their loved one. They will also likely work with their loved one in therapy sessions and in practicing interpersonal skills and communication.
Schizoid personality disorder is a particularly difficult mental illness. If you or someone you care about is living with SPD, you may be able to skate through life pretending everything is fine. The truth is that this condition causes loneliness and isolation. Even for someone who truly struggles to want to have close relationships, treatment can make improvements that last a life time and make that life more enjoyable.
If you’re concerned about a loved one and believe they may need residential care, we can help. BrightQuest offers long-term treatment for people struggling with schizoaffective disorders, schizophrenia, and severe bipolar as well as co-occurring substance use disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned program and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.